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Signs of ADHD in Children at Home

Margaret V. Austin, Ph.D., edited by C. E. Zupanick, Psy.D.

How Do I Know if My Child has ADHD?

As all caregivers and teachers can attest, children are often inattentive, and frequently impulsive. Some children seem to have an endless supply of energy, never slowing down. So how can a parent tell if their child's behavior is just an ordinary part of childhood, or something to be concerned about?

First, remember that the signs and symptoms we described above must be of a magnitude and frequency that is highly unusual for their age group. Thus, what might be a usual and ordinary behavior for a two-year-old, might be considered highly unusual or abnormal for a 10-year-old. Second, the symptoms are evident in more than one setting (e.g., school, home, playground, etc.). The following discussion describes problematic behaviors that can be observed in children with ADHD in each of the three primary settings: at home, at school, and with peers.

How Does ADHD Affect a Child at Home?

stressed teen When children have ADHD, their behaviors have a profound effect on the entire family. Their high activity level, moodiness, and problems at school, can generate a great deal of tension for the entire family. Family conflicts may erupt as a result. These conflicts often occur during social gatherings, meals, and other family activities. This is because the ADHD child's unpleasant behavior interferes with other family member's enjoyment of an activity. For example, imagine a family trying to watch their favorite television show. They have all been looking forward to this. Then, one child starts fidgeting with the remote control, changing channels. After that problem is corrected, they stand up and block everyone's view. Next, they are talking or singing loudly during the show. No one is having fun at this point.

The strain on the caregivers can be overwhelming. A child who is constantly on the go; touching everything in sight; bumping into people; and engaging in angry outbursts; will demand a lot of time and energy from caregivers. Caregivers of such children must be constantly vigilant. They can't let down their guard down for fear something will get broken, or someone will get hurt. Even for the most easy-going caregivers, this can be exhausting.

Caregivers often find themselves reacting to their child's behavior after it has already occurred. This reactive approach rarely yields change. It takes great skill, patience, and practice to get ahead of the behavior before it occurs. However, this sort of proactive approach corrects and prevents negative behaviors from occurring in the first place. This approach is taught during ADHD parenting classes.

Raising a child with ADHD strains not only the parent-child relationship, but also the marital relationship. Caregivers may argue with each other over discipline. Nothing seems to work. They often experience their own negative emotions such as feelings of sadness, guilt, anger, and helplessness. As caregivers learn about ADHD, and how to manage the symptoms, their ability to prevent such behaviors will improve. We will discuss parenting tips in more detail in our section on Treatment LINK.

Signs of ADHD in children at home:

  • Hyperactive children seem as though they NEED to move- constantly.
  • Frequently make excessive noise;
  • Exuberant;
  • Physically intrusive behaviors with both parents and siblings;
  • Running through the house;
  • Frequent shifts from one activity to another;
  • Problems following the rules;
  • Can't remember more than one thing at a time;
  • Resent siblings for not getting into trouble as often;
  • Feel picked on;
  • Are easily irritated;
  • Can't stay out of siblings' rooms or things;
  • Start arguing about rules as they get older;
  • Can't keep their room neat, mess spills over into the rest of the house; and
  • Parents find it is easier to do the chore themselves, rather than to get the child to do it.

Signs of ADHD in teens at home:

  • Channel surfing;
  • Resentment of authority;
  • Resistance to rules;
  • Failure to pay attention;
  • Difficulty completing chores;
  • Fidgeting or restless behavior;
  • Easily irritated;
  • Frequent emotional outbursts;
  • Risky behavior;
  • Difficulty taking perspective of others; and,
  • Messiness continues.